Readers often ask where I get an idea for a story, and my answer usually is, “I don’t know.” Which is usually correct. I don’t know. Most always when a story comes to me, it’s because of the crazy way my brain combines three or four separate incidents, characters, stories, or a combination of all three.
The idea for Silent Partner began about four years ago when my husband and I talked about taking an Alaska cruise. Seemed like the perfect setting for a cozy mystery—a captive audience, so to speak, as well as a contained pool of suspects all forced into close proximity to each other. Exactly what an author looks for in a mystery novel.
At the time, I played with the title Cold, Hard Cash because of the Alaska location, icebergs and glaciers, and because the body would be found on a glacier or a larger iceberg floating past. However, two things happened: I came out with an unplanned book because the cruise was delayed, and the title of that book was Petty Cash, so I didn’t want two books with similar titles; and I went on the cruise and learned that during this time of year when the story is set, in May, the icebergs floating south are too small—more like ice chunks, really—for a body, plus the only access to a glacier is by helicopter, which few people would do.
So, as I spent seven glorious days aboard the Amsterdam, I looked around for alternatives to where the body would be found. And one day, hubby and I were out walking the deck, and a crew member came out through a door leading to a part of the ship we hadn’t seen before, leaving that door ajar. Hubby headed for the door, but the crew member turned around and said he couldn’t go through there. Despite hubby’s protests, we were denied entry until a couple of days later when we sailed into a bay and sat before the impressive Hubbard Glacier for about three hours. Then we were encouraged to go onto the bow, and to eat pea soup at 3:00, and to wander around. And I learned there was nothing there but the bow of the ship. Not too interesting.
However, the next day as I passed the same spot where we saw the crew member exit the bow, I saw water on the deck and footprints leading toward the door. The perfect cover shot!
As I worked through my plot, the characters came to life. I had run a promotion where one winner won the opportunity to be named as the killer, one of the suspects, or the victim in this book, and that person wanted to be a suspect, which I wrote in.
I use much of the itinerary, the staff, the crew, and the events from our cruise as backdrop for the mystery, changing some names but leaving others intact. I’ve had help in research from a cruise ship law attorney, and from a man overboard detection system technician.
And as much as Carly and Mike are much like me and my husband, they are still very much their own “people”. I am not nearly as quick on the comebacks as Carly is, and my husband has never said I’m a full-time job. Apart from that – well, I’ll leave it to you to figure out where the imagination begins and ends.
Question for readers: If you could take a cruise anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Leave a comment for the chance to win a free print (US only) or ebook version of Silent Partner.
About Silent Partner:
Carly and Mike take the vacation of a lifetime–an Alaskan cruise. Unfortunately, Carly can’t turn off her nose for trouble. Or mystery. Pretty soon she’s embroiled with a series of allegations, innuendoes, overheard conversations, and even a shoving match. And before she knows it–a body. Can Carly figure out who the killer is before she ends up floating on an iceberg—or worse?